Tag Archives: Afghan War

Bergdahl gets off too lightly

Count me as one American who believes Bowe Bergdahl deserves to serve time in prison.

I had given the one-time U.S. Army Ranger the benefit of the doubt when he was returned to U.S. custody after being held captive by the Taliban for five years. He came home after the Obama administration negotiated for his release from the hideous conditions under which the Taliban kept him.

Then came questions about the nature of his “capture.” Did he go willingly into enemy hands?

Bergdahl admitted to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Yep, he did it all of his volition.

Today, the judge hearing the case spared Bergdahl prison time. He ordered him to receive a dishonorable discharge that, of course, will stay with him for the rest of his life.

It’s not punishment enough for what he has admitted to doing.

Bergdahl faced a potential life term in prison for the misbehavior charge. I don’t know that he actually deserved to spend his entire life behind bars. However, the former Army sergeant did put his men in danger when they went looking for him. What’s more, he deserted his unit that had been placed in harm’s way to fight the monstrous enemy force that supposed “captured” him.

I do not dismiss the terrible conditions under which Bergdahl was kept by the Taliban. However, it does not lessen the betrayal he committed against the men with whom he was serving.

I believe the judge today made a mistake in leveling such a light sentence against Bowe Bergdahl. May this deserter thing long and hard for the rest of his life about what he did.

Honoring a new ‘Greatest Generation’

I am re-reading a book I’ve owned for a couple of decades.

The great broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw penned “The Greatest Generation” to pay tribute to the men and women who saved the world from tyranny during World War II.

Brokaw’s thesis is one that I still accept, that those 16 million Americans who answered the call to fight a global war on two fronts — in Europe and the Pacific — exhibited unparalleled devotion. They served “for the duration” of the war. They finished the job and came home to start their lives.

I’m reading the book, though, with a slightly different take than I had when I picked it up the first time.

The current generation of fighting men and women is rising to the level of devotion and dedication that my father’s generation did more than 70 years ago.

Under vastly different circumstances, to be sure.

They are fighting an enemy that is every bit as cunning and resourceful as the Nazis were in Europe and the Japanese were in the Pacific. These terrorists against whom we keep sending these young Americans to fight are ruthless and dedicated to the perverted principles they are following.

Today’s generation of young American warriors is facing multiple deployments onto the battlefield in Afghanistan and other places — some of which are undisclosed. Four Army Special Forces troops died recently in Niger, bringing into the open a deployment few Americans knew was under way.

I long have saluted my father for his contribution to fighting tyranny during World War II. I am proud of what he did as a sailor who saw more than his share of combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

I also want to salute other members of my family who’ve thrust themselves into harm’s way during the current war against international terror. My cousin served multiple Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have a nephew who drove an Army tank into Iraq when that war broke out in March 2003; he would return to Iraq for a second tour.

The war on terror just might be a conflict that has no end. There might not be any way for the United States to declare total victory as this country was able to do in 1945. The enemy surrendered unconditionally, giving The Greatest Generation of Americans its ticket home.

Can we achieve a similar end to the current war? I am trying to imagine how that gets done.

Meantime, the current generation keeps fighting. These young Americans have earned their status as the newest Greatest Generation.

I am proud of them beyond measure.

Another date to mark a war with no end in sight

I refuse to call Sept. 11 an “anniversary.” I reserve that term to commemorate weddings and other happy beginnings.

9/11 is none of that. It’s coming up Monday. Sixteen years ago terrorists commandeered four jetliners; they flew two of them into the World Trade Center’s twin towers; one flew into the Pentagon; one crashed in a Pennsylvania field after a titanic struggle between passengers and terrorists.

Roughly 3,000 people died on that terrible day.

Not long after that, President Bush sent young Americans to war against the terrorists. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, which had given shelter for the monsters, fell to our forces. The war raged on and on and on.

In March 2003 the war spread to Iraq. We toppled a dictator, who later was captured, tried and hanged. We were told we went into Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t find any.

What the 9/11 date will remind me on Monday is that we very well may never — at least not in my lifetime — be able to end this war against international terrorism.

President Bush handed the struggle off to Barack Obama in 2009. The fight went on.

In May 2011, President Obama announced “to the nation and the world” that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind. We cheered the news. Crowds gathered outside the White House chanting “USA! USA! USA!” We got the main bad guy.

What happened after that? The war went on.

The Islamic State surfaced during this time. ISIS has continued to bring havoc and horror. There have been beheadings and bombings.

The war rages on, despite the arrest of and deaths of several key ISIS and al-Qaeda leaders.

Our enemy is cunning. He is smart. He knows how to hit “soft targets.” His victims primarily are other Muslims, which puts the lie to the notion that we are “at war with Islam.” As President Obama said while announcing bin Laden’s death, our enemy comprises a cabal of murderers who have declared war on Muslims as well as they have on Christians and Jews.

This year, President Obama handed it off to Donald Trump. The new president campaigned foolishly on the pledge to wipe out ISIS and al-Qaeda. He boasted that he knows “more than the generals about ISIS.” He doesn’t.

No matter the level of presidential boastfulness, the fight will rage on. We’ll keep killing terrorist leaders. Others will slither out and take the place of those we eliminate.

How do we prevent more “soft target” incidents? How do we prevent the so-called “lone wolf” from driving a motor vehicle into crowds? Or how do we stop those from igniting bombs at sporting events or other places where large crowds of victims gather?

9/11 is no anniversary. It’s not a date to celebrate. It’s a date that should serve to remind us of the threat that has lurked among us for far longer than we ever imagined.

And it lurks to this very day.

The war will rage on.

Will POTUS continue his search for peace and harmony?

The president of the United States sought to lay out a new strategy for fighting the Afghan War.

He began his speech Monday night, though, with what I perceived in the moment to be a curious diversion from the topic at hand. He spoke about peace, harmony, understanding and love. He said he wants our brave warriors fighting overseas to return to a country in which all citizens feel equally loved by their fellow Americans.

I thought it was an interesting — and welcome — appeal in the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., riot that was ignited by hate groups marching and counter protesters clashing with them.

So here’s where I’m heading with this: Is the president going to continue that theme tonight when he steps in front of cheering throngs in Phoenix, Ariz.? It’s billed as a campaign rally. You know how those involving Donald Trump usually turnout, yes? They get raucous. The president flies “off script.” He starts hurling insults around. The crowd cheers. The president basks in the adulation he hears in the throaty yells.

Trump is going to a state represented in the U.S. Senate by two Republicans — John McCain and Jeff Flake — who’ve been openly critical of him. Trump has responded with insults he has hurled back at them. Sen. Flake is facing a GOP primary challenge and the president has taken the highly unusual step of appearing to back his opponent.

The nation is in the middle of an intense discussion about race relations in light of what happened in Charlottesville. Will the president respond in a positive way to that discussion, or will he pour fuel onto that wildfire with more of his intemperate rhetoric?

My hope is that he’ll listen to the calmer angels that might be trying to be heard above the din. My fear is that he’ll ignore them and go with the shouters.

How we do know when we have ‘won’?

Donald Trump sought to offer a new strategy for the Afghan War.

The president told us he intends to base our strategy on “conditions” rather than on “time.” We’re going to fight the Afghan War until conditions on the ground tell us we can disengage and that we’re no longer going to give our enemies advance notice of when we intend to stop shooting.

Fine, Mr. President.

I need to ask him, though, a question that has nagged me ever since we entered this war back in 2001: How are we going to know when we have “won” this conflict?

The war against international terrorism has established an entirely new benchmark from which our military strategists must work. They cannot keep beating the enemy on the battlefield and then simply declare victory. Terrorists have this way of receding into the darkness and then striking when we least expect it.

The Afghan War is being waged against Taliban and Islamic State terrorists who continue to resist at every turn. Al-Qaeda has been effectively wiped out in Afghanistan; indeed, it was al-Qaeda’s attack on this country on 9/11 that launched the war. Although that terrorist organization has been decimated in Afghanistan, it has plenty of other locations that will give it “safe haven” from which it can strike back — eventually.

The president has indicated that more troops are heading into Afghanistan. We’re going to send fighting men and women directly onto the battlefield, where they will work closely with Afghan troops.

The president was more correct in his assessment of the fight while he was running for office. He called it a hopeless and futile endeavor. I won’t agree with that entirely. My version of a better outcome would involve stepping up our training capability to ensure that the Afghan armed forces can defend their country effectively — without further on-site help from Americans.

Does this mean we stop fighting? Does it mean we simply give up, surrender and return Afghanistan to the bad guys? No. This fight is as complicated and complex as it gets. I am simply leery of any notion that we’ll ever know for certain when and how we can declare victory.

Get ready … for the ‘other’ Donald Trump

Americans got a good look tonight at a president of the United States who is capable of sounding like one.

Donald Trump’s speech a roomful of soldiers at Fort Myer, Va., was sober, a bit somber and serious. He talked about changes in war strategy in Afghanistan and scolded our allies in Pakistan for not doing enough to fight terror.

I generally don’t agree with Trump’s policy, but I’ll give him credit for looking and sounding like someone who occupies the most powerful and important office on Earth.

Tomorrow, though, is another day. The president will get on Air Force One and fly to Phoenix, Ariz., to deliver a campaign-style rally speech.

I am quite certain we’re going to see another Donald Trump. We’re going to see and hear someone who’s likely to sound like the clown who attached a sort of moral equivalence between the Nazis/Klansmen and those who opposed them in that Charlottesville, Va., riot.

Oh, and then the man who tonight said our troops fighting in Afghanistan need to return home to a nation of love and tolerance well might issue a pardon to one of law enforcement’s most divisive and cantankerous lawmen. I refer to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’ll attend that Phoenix rally alongside the president.

Arpaio has been convicted of violating the civil rights of illegal immigrants and faces a prison term. Unless, of course, the president pardons him, which he has said he is “seriously considering.”

How do you think that’s going to play as the nation is still reeling from the Charlottesville chaos?

Which of these Trumps is the real one? The serious and sober man who spoke tonight? Or is it the one who’ll get his base all worked up with fiery and furious rhetoric?

I’m thinking the real Donald Trump will show up in Phoenix.

Trump throws down on Pakistan

There’s quite a bit to parse about Donald Trump speech tonight about a change of strategy in our nation’s ongoing war in Afghanistan and its military policies regarding South Asia.

Let’s look briefly at Pakistan

The president has declared that Pakistan has to step up and become a significant U.S. ally in the fight against the Taliban, ISIS and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

I actually agree with the president’s view on Pakistan, a nation I never have trusted fully to be a valuable partner in that struggle. You’ll recall that in May 2011 our SEAL and CIA commandos killed Osama bin Laden in a compound where he lived for years inside of Pakistan. No one has yet produced evidence that the Pakistanis were totally ignorant of bin Laden’s presence inside their country.

So, yes, the Pakistanis have to demonstrate their commitment to fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan.

Then the president reached across Pakistan and tapped its arch-rival India to play a larger role in this effort. Can there be a more stinging slap in the Pakistanis’ face than that?

The strategy change as delivered tonight lacks detail. Trump’s decision to wage war until circumstances dictate a possible end creates the potential for an open-ended conflict. Are we ready for that?

He also laid down a marker at the feet of the Afghan government. Trump wants to see “real results” in an effort to end corruption. He wants to see the Afghans demonstrate a military capability that prevents the Taliban from return to power.

The president talked for quite a long time before running for office that the Afghan War was a foolish contest. Then he took his seat behind the Oval Office desk, he said tonight, and saw things differently. I’m glad he recognized how perspectives change when you obtain power.

Something is gnawing at my gut that we’ve just heard the president of the United States commit this country to continuing fighting a war that still seems to lack a strategy for winning.

U.S. forces won far more battles in Vietnam than they lost. Conventional wisdom held that we should have actually won that war. We didn’t. The Vietnamese outlasted us. We left and the enemy we “defeated” on the battlefield took control of the government we sought to protect and preserve.

Is there a similar outcome awaiting us in Afghanistan?

Will the president recognize his Afghan reversal?

Donald John Trump is preparing to speak to the nation tonight about Afghanistan. The word that’s being reported is that the president is planning to announce the addition of several thousand more troops to the conflict that’s been raging for the past 16 years.

The president is getting high marks for recognizing the difference between campaigning and governing. Indeed, President Barack Obama campaigned for office pledging to close the terrorist internment camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the camp is still open.

Trump has been a huuuuge critic of the Afghan War. He tweeted repeatedly prior to and during his presidential campaign that the war is a lost cause, that we shouldn’t shed any more American blood in Afghanistan.

Now he’s the commander in chief. He’s expected now to say something quite different from what he said while campaigning for the job.

Will the president take a moment tonight to acknowledge that maybe — just maybe — he might have been incorrect in his prior world view? Might he concede finally that he didn’t see the picture as completely as he does now?

That’s what grownups do. They atone for previous statements.

What’s more, my hope — if not my expectation — is that the president will accept responsibility for any potential setbacks that occur once the troops are deployed to Afghanistan. Will he, as commander in chief, realize that he is ultimately responsible for any result stemming from the decisions he makes — be they good or bad?

The record to this point doesn’t portend much maturity coming from the president.

I hope I am wrong.

How many more ‘worst weeks’ can POTUS endure?

It’s been said over the past couple of days that Donald J. Trump’s list of “worst weeks of his presidency” has become too numerous to count. Suffice to say that the week just past likely qualifies as his last “worst week.”

They rioted in Charlottesville, Va., over a Confederate statue. A young woman — someone who was there to protest the neo-Nazi/Klan/white supremacists who objected to the removal of the statue — was run over in what has been called an act of “domestic terrorism.” The president first blamed “many sides” for the violence; then he blamed the KKK and neo-Nazis for it; then he blamed “both sides” and accused the “alt-left” of provoking an angry response from the Nazis/KKK.

It got real crappy for the president.

A new week is about to convene for the commander in chief and he’s got a chance — or so it appears — to do something right. He’s going to speak to the nation at 8 p.m. (CDT) Monday to announce a new “strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.”

We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years, the longest stretch of open warfare in the nation’s history. The 9/11 terrorists declared war on the United States and President Bush responded quickly. The war continued through his two terms and through two terms of Barack Obama’s presidency.

What is the current president going to tell us? Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis would reveal it. He chose wisely to leave it to the president to make his own announcement.

What should Trump do? My sincere hope was that we could end the contest in Afghanistan. That won’t happen. The war we’ve fought there hasn’t produced the ironclad strength in the government we installed when we threw the Taliban out of power in 2001.

The nation will wait to hear from the president about how he intends to continue prosecuting this war. That’s his call.

I’ll just ask one favor: Please, Mr. President, stick to the issue at hand and spare us yet another boasting of how smart you are, how rich you are, how many “really smart people” surround you, and how you won the presidency against all odds.

We’ve got young Americans in harm’s way, Mr. President, and now is the time to present yourself as a commander in chief who knows what the hell he’s doing.

Trump damages due process


Donald J. Trump proved beyond anyone’s doubt that political candidates can — and do — say anything without regard to the consequences to certain cherished American principles … such as, oh, due process.

While running for president, Trump condemned a U.S. Army sergeant as a “rotten traitor.” The man in question is Bowe Bergdahl, who is set to be court-martialed in the spring on charges that he walked off his post in Afghanistan before he was captured by Taliban terrorists.

He was held captive for five years. Then he was released in a prisoner swap with U.S. officials.

I am not going to make an assertion about Bergdahl’s guilt or innocence. I wasn’t there. Neither was Trump. Or anyone other than the Taliban terrorists and Bergdahl. That didn’t prevent Trump from issuing a blanket campaign-stump conviction of the young man.

Moreover, as the New York Times wondered in an editorial published today, the rants of the future commander in chief likely have put Bergdahl’s right to a fair trail in extreme jeopardy.


As the Times stated: “Sergeant Bergdahl is charged with desertion and misbehavior in front of the enemy; a guilty verdict could result in a sentence anywhere from no jail time to life. But how can he get a fair trial in the military justice system when the next commander in chief has proclaimed his guilt and accused him of treason?

“The short answer is he can’t.”

The Army has charged Bergdahl with desertion and he could be sentenced to prison for the rest of his life if he’s convicted.

Trump’s proclamation of guilt of one of the men who soon will be under his command speaks to his utter disregard for the rule of law and of the due process that is accorded to all criminal defendants.

The Times suggests that President Obama might grant Bergdahl a pardon to allow him to “rebuild his life” and avoid what it calls a “questionable” prosecution. The Times states that Bergdahl had a pre-existing mental condition when he enlisted in the Army, which granted him an enlistment waiver.

Given the poison that the next commander in chief has inserted into this pre-trial discussion, the current commander in chief ought to take a hard look at a pardon.

Trump’s rhetorical recklessness only demonstrates his unfitness for the job he is about to assume.